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Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 11:38 GMT

World: Europe

Greek ministers quit over Ocalan

A Kurdish protester is engulfed in flames during a demo in Athens

Three members of the Greek Government have resigned in the fallout from the capture by Turkey of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Paul Wood: The government says it was Mr Ocalan's personal decision to leave Kenya
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangolos stepped down after Prime Minister Costas Simitis requested his resignation at a meeting of the Greek Cabinet.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Public Order Minister Philipos Petsalnikos and Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos had also resigned.

African connection

Mr Ocalan was captured and returned to Turkey on Monday after hiding out at the Greek ambassador's residence in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

There had been speculation that the Greek government may have been seeking an African country willing to offer asylum to the Kurdish rebel leader.

Mr Papadopoulos was in charge of Greek intelligence services, which were believed to be deeply involved in the operation to send and protect Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya.

Mr Petsalnikos, whose ministry is in charge of security forces, is being blamed for failing to prevent a small group of Kurdish sympathisers from smuggling Mr Ocalan into Greece last month.

For years, Greek officials have expressed support for Kurdish self-determination, but cautiously avoided direct aid to Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

The government spokesman said the Greek prime minister would seek a judicial inquiry into those who brought Mr Ocalan into Greece on 29 January.

He said: "The prime minister asked that responsibility be sought from all of those people who beyond every sense of reality and beyond every limit of national duty ... brought Abdullah Ocalan to Greece."

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